We, Too, Crave the Gift Shop

So much can happen at Edcamp.  Whether it’s the connections we make, approaches and tools we learn, or even the virtual visits from educational leaders, we typically walk away with more than what we came with.

One week ago at Edcamp Grafton, I walked away with two things.  Since Dave Burgess’s recent post, Empty Kids Into the Gift Shophad been on my mind, it hit me that we, too, crave the gift shop.  Why else would we show up on a weekend, arrange for childcare months in advance (if you’re like me!), and spend hours discussing what we’re passionate about?


Dave so enthusiastically speaks of homework as an extension of the exciting learning taking place during the school day.   If we aim to produce theme park like experiences for our kids, they might just be hungry enough to extend their knowledge as they beg to do with toys, games, and books immediately after the ride.  I realize we don’t exactly have homework, but we do have important times outside of the school day where we are asked to extend our learning.

Although my actual visits to gift shops are rare, one of my favorite things about them is talking about what I want, why I want it, and checking out what everyone else is getting. And if you can’t afford to buy what you want, you talk about other options that can provide similar outcomes.

I remember a few years ago, I would be on this ecstatic Genius Hour high, aching to share what my students and I were discovering together as well as learn from my colleagues.  I would head directly to a staff meeting only to sit and listen.  I am not saying at all that the information shared is unimportant or irrelevant. Yet anyone that has read Chapter 17 from Lead Like a PIRATE understands there is a better way.   We, too, crave the gift shop.


We can of course attend conferences, “unconferences,” and more! (not to mention spend lots of time on Twitter!)  We are required to attend meetings, however, and just as homework is often seen as a demand on students, those sixty to ninety minutes can certainly have the same perception.   This is where the excitement for hot topics within education should be continued, a place to dive deeper into what drives us.  This is the time for teachers to connect as we all know it’s often those next door we never see! These are moments that can be so easily lost if we run through the gift shop without looking back.

Last Saturday, a teacher asked the ultimate question at our first Lead Like a PIRATE session. It went something like this:  “So, when you read a book like this as someone in a non-administrative role, can’t it be frustrating?”  The simple answer is of course, yes, but the more important answer is “Yes is not enough.”  This became clear to me as I listened to Beth Houf (who joined us in the second session while getting her hair done!) so passionately describe her PIRATE infused school.


Ideally, we will get to a point where the answer is no, because the whole world will be leading like PIRATES, following model buildings like Fulton Middle School.  Until then, I believe we need to help and inspire each other as much as absolutely possible.  If the answer is yes, we have a job to do and I have seen first hand that if we don’t commit to it, our students will become directly affected.   So this is the second revelation I walked away with:  Those of us that crave the gift shop may also have to build it.

Recently I wrote a post pushing the idea that we can all find a unique way to lead.  In addition, I believe educators in positions like my own, specifically, can play a critical role. As a technology integration coach, I work with many teachers, I walk into classrooms daily, and I see what’s happening.  I’m aware of what’s creating hype and I can help spark an environment where teachers are sharing and leading each other. I have the opportunity to not only empower my colleagues, but build a transparent bridge to administrators.

There’s more.  I found myself at both LeadLAP sessions at Edcamp Grafton playing an unexpected role.  I was suddenly encouraging people like me in non-administrative roles to initiate conversations with their administrators.  Like my friend Jay Billy suggested, we can come to the table with Lead Like a PIRATE as a must read, share our passion for it, and explain whole heartedly that we loved it and believe they will too.   After all, if a student read Teach Like a PIRATE and brought it to me with enthusiasm saying, “Mrs. Bartley, you will LOVE this book!” I would indeed want to know more.

If we want to be heard, we need to speak. If we want to talk passion, we need to bring it, express it, and sell it.  It’s too important not to.  It may not happen overnight as we all know our principals and superintendents are incredibly busy!  But if we, in fact, crave the gift shop we need to be ready to build it.


2 thoughts on “We, Too, Crave the Gift Shop

  1. Beautiful post. I especially love how you closed it. it is up to us. No matter what level of leadership we’re in, we can have an impact. Keep on fighting the good fight and let your passion guide you!


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